The truth behind the music: An interview with Bruce Sudano

Bruce Sudano, a singer-songwriter with a career spanning decades, delves deep into the raw and introspective themes of his latest album, Talking Ugly Truths and Telling Pretty Lies. In this exclusive interview with London Mums magazine, Bruce Sudano discusses the inspiration behind the album, his creative process, and the personal stories woven into his music.

Bruce Sudano - June23 (Amy Waters) 4

Bruce Sudano – Photo by Amy Waters

Monica: Let’s talk about Talking Ugly Truths and Telling Pretty Lies. The title itself is like a mantra — deeply introspective and reflective. Can you share a little about the inspiration behind this title and the themes you explore in the album?

Bruce Sudano: It’s interesting because I didn’t set out with a specific intention for the album to be this way. As I look back on it, it ended up being a kind of song cycle that spans almost half my life. For instance, the album starts with “Better Than This,” which tells the story of my 17-year-old self in my daddy’s car, taking a girl out for a ride, and having a kiss in the seat. This song takes you through different phases of life, highlighting that every phase is beautiful if you embrace what it brings — its difficulties, joys, and lessons. Then it moves into the current world with “Make the World Go Away.”

Monica: I love that song very much. We talked about it last time.

Bruce: Yes, it discusses experiencing the weight of the world we all live with daily. Then there’s “Two Bleeding Hearts,” which tells the story of a relationship. Everything seems fine, then suddenly there’s a major fight, and it’s about who will break the ice first and say sorry. The thrill of that song is that I got to do it with Valerie Simpson, a classic songwriter and a Hall of Famer. It was a thrill to have her sing with me on a song I wrote. Then we have “How’d You Get Here?” which is written for someone my age. It’s about living a good part of your life and suddenly realising how quickly time has passed. It touches on the realities of ageing, mortality, fragility, and vulnerability.

Monica: How do you mix someone’s story into a song? I think musicians have a responsibility to inspire us, to make us connect with others.

Bruce: As a songwriter, I look for inspiration from within myself. I try to respond to things that move me, whether political, emotional, or otherwise. That’s why I cover many topics in this record. They’re all intertwined because they come from my head, heart, and soul, digesting the world around me — the same world everyone else is experiencing. The title track, Talking Ugly Truths and Telling Pretty Lies, is about two renegades living on the fringe, pushing the envelope of what they think they can get away with. It’s a story that lets listeners draw their own conclusions about how they want to live their lives.

Monica: That sounds very colourful. How are you planning to create the music video for this song?

Bruce: I’m wrestling with how to do the video. The album came out on March 1st with a video. I’m deciding whether to tell the story literally or take a more esoteric approach. Maybe a mix of both — literal and parallel stories, like in Sliding Doors. It could be an intersection where the paths diverge.

Monica: That sounds fascinating. Changing gears, I read that most of the album was written in Milan. How did the city’s atmosphere and surroundings influence your creative process?

Bruce: I love being in Milan. It’s very different from LA, and I find it very inspiring. Francesca, my wife, is at the gallery all day, so I have a lot of time to write, think, and walk. I live behind a church and often sit there to talk to God and meditate. Milan has a good pace, with lots of art, interesting people, and culture. It’s a nice balance for my life, and there’s so much to feed off creatively.

Monica: Have you been living there for a while?

Bruce: Over the last eight years or so, I’ve been spending more and more time there — about half the year now. I just got back to LA two weeks ago after being in Milan for the last three months. I even put together a band in Italy, and we did our first gig for Radio Popolare, playing live in their auditorium and broadcasting it at the same time.

Monica: Wow, that sounds amazing. Your band in Milan — do you play locally as well?

Bruce: Yes, we do. It’s a small ensemble with a bassist, percussionist, cellist, and me on guitar. We’re planning more shows for March.

Monica: That’s great. I also read that the album cover features a detail from a painting by Donna Summer. What made you choose this specific visual element, and how does it connect with the album’s theme?

Bruce: My last few covers have involved different artists, but for this record, I felt comfortable incorporating something of Donna’s. I chose this piece because it’s less figurative and more abstract. It allows listeners to see what they want, creating their own stories. It’s open to interpretation, much like the themes in my songs.

Monica: Do you still have the painting?

donna summer painting bruce sudano album cover

Bruce: I don’t. We did an auction with Christie’s about six months ago and offered up a few of Donna’s paintings, including this one. It’s now with someone else who can enjoy it. I believe in sharing her work rather than hoarding it all.

Monica: That’s a wonderful sentiment. Last time, we talked about Donna and the song “Bad Girls.” You mentioned recording a new version of it. How’s that going?

Bruce: I’ve recorded a version with my Italian band. It’s not a dance song like the original but more acoustic, reflecting how it was initially written. The cello brings a sort of sadness to it, while still retaining its soul and bluesy essence. I’ll send it to you once it’s finished.

Monica: I’d love to hear that. It sounds like a beautiful and authentic take on the song. Donna was such a significant part of your life and music, and it’s inevitable that people remain interested in her.

Bruce: Absolutely. Her influence is still felt, and I’m proud to continue sharing our shared stories through my music.

 

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